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Arcadia: A Play Paperback – September 24, 1994
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From the Back Cover
Bernard has arrived to uncover the scandal which is said to have taken place when Lord Byron stayed at Sidley Park.
Tom Stoppard's absorbing play takes us back and forth between the centuries and explores the nature of truth and time, the difference between the Classical and the Romantic temperament, and the disruptive influence of sex on our orbits in life -- 'the attraction which Newton left out'.
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Top Customer Reviews
Don't get me wrong-- Arcadia is an intellectual work of drama. It can be read and analyzed for symbolism and layering and all the fun that one typically associates with "Great Literature". Stoppard demands elementary knowledge of thermodynamics (entropy), modern mathematics (iterations and chaos theory), gardening history (Classic/Romantic), and literary history (Byron, Romanticism, etc.) There is tons of symbolism and contrast and notions about human nature. But despite all the intellectual games and word play, Arcadia manages to retain a profound sense of humanness.
The characters are vibrant and full of desire. They are not merely facades through which Stoppard can show off his literary prowess. Arcadia is simply a wonderful story. In the end, one cares about the characters and this is what redeems the play from mere intellectual showmanship. The plot moves and weaves and twists and if you can follow it, the play is truly rewarding.
My only misgiving is that I never got to see Arcadia in production. The last scene incorporates two different time periods on the same stage as they couples dance side by side in almost mirror image. I would have loved to see it done on stage and I'm eagerly awaiting an Arcadia revival.
Only Stoppard could weave modern physics, classical literature, piercing wit, sensuous history, astounding absurdities, and sparkling innocence into a web so fresh, so complex, so deeply touching as to open a doorway into the hidden engine-rooms under the world.
I say none of this lightly. I have read many plays and none have succeeded in moving me--mind, body, and soul--the way Arcadia has.
Let the intellectual acrobatics wash over you if that is not your cup of tea, but read it, nonetheless.
The real surprise comes when the the early 19th century scene is invaded by 20th century characters who are trying to piece together exactly what happened here nearly 200 years previously. A doomed enterprise, Thomasina could have told them. The Second Law of Thermodynamics says you cannot recapture the past.
Probably the most interesting aspect of "Arcadia" is the use of a double plot structure, in which two disparate plots unfurl in the same room at the same time, but in completely different eras in history. It would perhaps be more conducive to an understanding of the play to see it, rather than merely read it, yet a thorough read reveals many of the witty remarks, nuances of character, and subtext not entirely apparent in a performance, at least the first time around. What you realize further in a close reading of the play is the ingenious way in which Stoppard structures plot and character. Each character has a complicated, interesting relationship with each of the other characters, and each subplot plays itself out masterfully by the play's conclusion. Stoppard has created complex, inspired, real characters with human wants, needs, desires, and motivations, and they enthrall the reader/audience.
Infused with wit, wisdom, and wonder, "Arcadia" is a must-read, must-see work of art.
I don't agree. I found this play exceedingly entertaining, if I listened only for the puns, jokes, double entendres, and other language manipulations. On a level beyond that, the stories of the characters themselves can be wittily playful one minute and poignantly touching the next. Deeper still were the philosophical implications of what Stoppard said, how the intellectual and the emotional have to meet (as they did, in one character).
Basically, the play is about two groups of people, one in 1809, and one in the present. Those in 1809 are dealing with scandals, schoolwork, and sitting rooms, while those in the present are researching the characters that appear in the other part. It is nice to know a bit about chaos theory, thermodynamics, Lord Byron, and botany (can you recognize a dahlia on sight?) when reading or seeing this play, but it's not necessary. (I.E., if you've read Jurassic Park, that's all you need to know about chaos theory. If you know what a reversible equation is, then you're fine there, and, well, Lord Byron was a English Romantic poet.)
The person with whom I attended this play made a very cogent comment about the play: "If you only get one joke in five, then that's enough to think it's funny.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Had to read this play for a class. Hated it. It was all over the place and did not make much sense. I would never read this again nor go see a live performance of this play.Published 12 days ago by Amazon Customer
Reading Iain Pears' brilliant novel ARCADIA just now, I wondered how it might have been influenced by Tom Stoppard's 1993 play of the same title, which has been described [in the... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Roger Brunyate
Im just going to say that I never finished this play, but from what I read i enjoyed it alright, It is full of drama and talking behind peoples back, Not something that I would... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Maxwell Smart
Bravo, Tom Stoppard! Easy to read -- at first; then the play becomes richer and richer as you re-read. Excellent! jdlPublished 2 months ago by jdl
We four could not understand the actors because they spoke so fast. The write up in the play bill was unable to be comprehended and I have a Ph.D. Select after the second act.Published 4 months ago by Dr. D' Domains
Tom Stoppard is a genius, and this time-twisting play about adventures on an English country estate is beautifully lyrical. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Christin M. Mulligan
My favorite play by the best modern playwrite and wordsmith. Have enjoyed performances of Arcadia so it is a delight to actually read the words on the page and visualize the... Read morePublished 7 months ago by ljp
This play is beyond witty and yet moving and challenging. Stoppard is Shakespearean in his ability to interweave themes and literary and scientific references. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Albert Wallace
Very clever, very witty, very intelligent... but a bit too much for me. A showman, a narcissit, with too many qualities. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Jorge Arias